John Barrymore had excellent advice on the subject of reviews: “If you don’t believe the bad ones, why should you pay attention to the good ones?”

That said…let’s get braggy!



“[Nicolay’s] original research…makes for fun reading…and goes deep on a neglected population of musicians…A lively…peek at the artistry at the edge of the stage.” —Kirkus

“Perceptive…shed[s] fascinating light on the complications of dedicating one’s life to another’s music…[T]hese profiles succeed in complicating the ‘lone genius’ narrative of artistic creation and raising provocative questions about how society values the production of music. It’s a captivating look at what it means to occupy the complicated space ‘between a career and a calling.’”—Publishers Weekly


“Nicolay remains one of the finest chroniclers of the miseries, joys and petty discomforts of a life lived in music.” 7/10—UNCUT

“Musically vibrant…vibrant, heartfelt…spirited and full-bodied.”—Glide Magazine

“Show[s] his brilliance as a songwriter.”—Northern Transmission

“Jethro Tull-meets-Fugazi…[don’t] expect the obvious.”—Razorcake

“[F]ull of singalong choruses, epic arrangements and lyrics [about] finding hope for the future…It’s hard not to have at least a little bit of Nicolay’s ample enthusiasm rub off on you when listening to the joyous music and poetry on New River.”—4ZZZ Radio (AUS)

“[A] journey where multiple musical moods move like water…New River is a full-bodied experience that is best enjoyed from start to finish…Nicolay has assembled a tremendous supporting cast to help bring his poetic and heartfelt lyrics to life. The record is an ambitious undertaking—one that he knocks out of the park.”—Bearded Gentlemen Music

“‘Garlic & Vine ein absoluter Über-Song ist und Franz Nicolay ein absoluter Über-Typ.”—Vampster


Best Music Books of 2021 “Finally, the great indie-rock novel…like Dostoyevsky in a DIY punk space”—Rolling Stone

“Starting at the midlife crisis of an early-aughts indie rock never-was, Franz Nicolay delivers a tight-fisted gut punch of a novel, weaving a road-weary world with a lyricist’s skill for evocation, emotion, and economy….A knockout fiction debut from a longtime troubadour.” —Buzzfeed, “42 Great Books To Read This Spring”

“Simultaneously suffused with the glamour of music and attuned to the self-deception that glamour enables.” —Jewish Currents Shabbat Reading List

“Remember buying a novel at an actual bookstore & taking it home & starting it, then you can’t stop & you’re up till 3 a.m. plowing through it? Thanks to the great Franz Nicolay for writing That Novel. A punk rock tale like no other: Someone Should Pay For Your Pain“—Rob Sheffield (contributing editor, Rolling Stone)

“An essential addition to the canon of literature about rock musicians…Laugh out loud funny and sneaky sad.”—Steven Hyden (UPROXX)

“Hilarious, heartbreaking and gorgeous”—Travis M. Andrews (Washington Post culture writer)

“An unsentimental novel about the sentimentality of music, attuned to jagged beauty but admirably skeptical of the possibility of redemption.”—Nathan Goldman (editor, Jewish Currents)

“The kindest praise I believe a writer can give another about their work is: I wish I’d written this. About 100 pages into Franz Nicolay’s debut novel, Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, that thought hit me like a baseball bat. God, even that title fills me with envy….bleak, beautiful, authentic, sweet, and sobering. I can’t recommend this book enough for Rockers Of a Certain Age.”—Dan Ozzi, REPLY ALT

“Nicolay’s pitch-perfect observations make his story intriguing and all too true, zooming by like trees on the side of the highway. If the most specific things are the most relatable, then this carefully orchestrated takedown of musician life and will hit home with anyone who is reckoning with the bleary truths of a self-righteous life, from either side of forty.” —Razorcake

“It’s wonderful…If you’ve been in a band or been even loosely tied to a scene, you know these people and these places and these roads and these dive bar floor tiles and these mattresses in the corner at the local flophouse. It’s real and it’s relatable and it’s a sort of book about what happens after the ‘coming of age’ stuff gets old…a hell of a novel.” —Dying Scene

“[I] heartily recommend it. It’s that rare novel about rock ‘n’ roll that truly captures what it’s like on the road when you’re only doing it because you can’t do anything else. Every character in the story rings true…Those bad decisions are always one step behind us, gaining on us every year. What happens when they catch up with you? Read and find out.”—Jim Testa, Jersey Beat

“Nicolay’s insight into that world comes across vividly.”—SPIN
“Moving, funny, and sometimes brutal…teems with perfect tiny details.”—New Books Network

“Punchy and wise…brutally funny and heartfelt.”—Chronogram

“Nicolay’s debut novel is remarkable—tender, authentic, and sincere without being didactic…one of the rare writers who accurately captures the way working musicians speak and interact, and his intricate dissections of a creative life…make this slim novel a standout.”—The Book Jam

“Incredible…can’t recommend it enough. Franz is a truly gifted writer who artfully captures the unglamorous side of being a touring musician.”—Jonah Bayer, How Did We Get Weird? podcast


“Season’s Best Travel Books…wry and wide-ranging.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Must-read” —New York Post

“Best Nonfiction”—Amazon Editors’ Pick

“The book would be much like what Paul Theroux might write if he played the musical saw, lived on beer and borscht, and had a sense of humor…A pleasing romp: punk in attitude but literary in execution and a fine work of armchair travel for those unwilling to strap on an accordion on the streets of Rostov for themselves.” -—Kirkus Reviews

“Musicians have written a nearly uncountable number of books in recent years. But unlike, say, Rod Stewart or Steven Tyler, Franz Nicolay refers to Montaigne, Tocqueville, V.S. Pritchett, Ford Madox Ford and Melville — and that’s just in a two-page stretch of the introduction to his new travelogue.” —The New York Times

“Captivating…Nicolay grabs readers from the very start with this personal account…he is a worthwhile addition to [the] travelogue tradition…and his documentation of the punk diaspora leads to a unique counterculture viewpoint. His transient-by-nature profession serves as the perfect complement to the coverage of nations in transition, most notably in Humorless Ladies’ bookending of trips to Ukraine…Humorless Ladies, in these moments, helps readers (especially American ones) think about punk and counterculture with more of an international worldview. And thanks to Nicolay’s passionate presentation—and a helpful bibliography at the conclusion—it’s likely to inspire in readers the desire to dig deeper into these histories.” B+ —The AV Club

“Great Weekend Read” —Politico Playbook

“This complex combination of punk history, travel narrative, and politics is recommended for fans of Nicolay’s work and punk music in general.” —Library Journal

“Adds a layer of depth by exploring the ways music, specifically punk music, inspire and unite the local populace.” —Publishers Weekly

Paul Theroux meets Lester Bangs” —Omnivoracious/The Amazon Book Review

“[A] researched, charming, and sharp account of touring eastern Europe during the days of Ukraine’s revolution, Pussy Riot’s arrest, and a hundred other memorable moments from a wandering musician’s perspective.” —Razorcake

“Part Paul Theroux and part On The Road…DIY at its best…Nicolay’s witty prose is perfect…Come on with Volume 2 already!” —The Big Takeover

“Captivating…lively, often gorgeous prose…his work really shines in beautiful turns of phrase that instantly transport…this book will undoubtedly inspire other intrepid artists—punks and as-yet-undefined—to use their work as a means to get out in the flesh-and-blood world, get dirty, forsake comfort, and find the truth.” —Chronogram

“Immersive, poignant, and a treat for the senses, Ladies is the next step in an already vital career for Nicolay that is required reading for fans of music, punk, or just gaining a new perspective on the world we all share.” —Chunky Glasses

“A fascinating look at punk music in the former communist countries of Europe.” —Largehearted Boy

Through a prism of eccentric (and sometimes frightening and frequently hilarious) encounters, he illuminates the lives of the people who comprise the countercultural diaspora. It is these encounters, along with his dry and often scholarly wit, that propel the narrative and make for the book’s most memorable moments.” —Cincinnati CityBeat

“#9 Best Travel Book of 2016…this is a book which symbolises the emergence of an important new voice to the realm of travel writing, one that is not only enormously eloquent but also, perhaps yet more importantly, relentlessly courageous.” —Broken Jaw Travel

“Brilliantly rendered…through the eyes of a Slavic-lit-loving, accordion-playing, constantly-touring, insanely articulate punk.” —Seminary Co-op Bookstore 2016 Staff Favorite

“Blew me away…a fascinating look not only into touring, but also a specific time and place.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“Not only some of the most touching first-hand accounts of the effects the occupation had on the people of Ukraine, but also some incredibly moving moments of self-discovery for Nicolay himself…As far as travelogues go, I’ve never read better.” —Between The Covers
“This is probably the best travel book ever written by a musician, up there with Steve Earle’s novel for best book of any kind by a musician, and probably the best book about touring ever.” —Review Corner
“A musician I admire to no end…maker of incredible solo music, multi-instrumentalist virtuoso…I hate it when people who are brilliant at something I can’t do at all also write better than me. That’s grotesque.” —Stephen Metcalf, Slate Culture Gabfest


“[a] mind-expanding travelogue: no plan b is a journey that toys with transformation: of time, space, the elements, and the serendipity of discovery…tantalizing sounds sneak in and out. At times they take the form of discordant, non-harmonic pulsing, at other times the music is so rich, lovely, and melodic that you wish you could just close your eyes (ironically, given the visual feast!) and listen…a one-of-a-kind experience, a thought-provoking journey that jumps with exquisite grace from the meditatively peaceful to the shockingly visceral and back again.” – The Arts Fuse


“Fantastic…all of the scope and grandeur we’ve come to expect from a Franz Nicolay full-length…Franz Nicolay is the complete songwriter and To Us, The Beautiful is undoubtedly the first great record of 2015.” – The Ruckus

“I depend on him to try something new, to not phone it in, to collaborate with awesome people, and if all else fails, to write the ever-loving shit out of every single song. There’s only a few artists like that at a given time. Neko Case. Jeff Rosenstock. Blake Schwarzenbach. They’re only going to put out an album if they have something to say or a new way to say it. It’ll be challenging, it’ll be rewarding…He’s writing observations that are never platitudes, stories that are never retreads (not recent ones, at least), and simply making performative rock and roll that gets naked and rolls around in art…As he amasses one badass album after another, it becomes more exciting to see what the heights of his writing and performing will be. He’s assembling a body of work to rival any songwriter I can think of, friends. If you haven’t started listening yet, correct yourself. Essential Listening.” – Nine Bullets

“Perhaps his most accessible record to date…At its heart, this is a pure punk-rock record…balance[d] between boisterous celebration and punk-rock anger…an album that lives with you after you’ve pressed the pause button…a bold and confident statement. 4.5/5″ – Contact Music

“Exhilarating…It’s a staggering album, maybe the first truly great release of 2015. 4.5/5” – God Is In The TV

“Filled with huge torch songs, heartfelt acoustic numbers and buzzing three-minute pop songs. 4/5” – Already Heard

“There is no artist like Franz Nicolay…a brilliant and relentless record and the first great album of 2015.” – Record Crate

“Vivid lyrical constructions…complex dissection of broken love, travel experiences, and existential angst.” – AllMusic

“Boisterous…Nicolay’s most accessible solo album to date. 4/5” – Punknews

To Us, The Beautiful! is a tour through ringmaster Nicolay’s magic bag of tricks, with surprises at every turn and layer upon layer of intricate musicality that I will never fully understand…It is a lesson in entertainment, always changing and never predictable. When I read other reviewers claiming this record as one of the first truly great efforts of 2015 I thought they were perhaps going a bit far, but I’m happy to join their chorus and give this fascinating talent the ovation he deserves. 4.5/5″ – Renowned for Sound
“Nicolay’s lyrics are a testament to his true creative genius…a true street poet representative of NYC.” – Hit The Floor
“His best solo album to date…mix[es] diverse influences with a refreshingly direct, simple approach. 8/10” – Big Cheese

Nicolay could probably sing the phone book and make it sound like Dostoevsky.” – Éclat

“Every track brings its own reward…Recommend[ed].” – Echoes and Dust

“Masterfully emotional song-writing. 8/10” – Toxic Online

“One of the most unique punk albums to reach the ears of the masses…People like Nicolay are pushing the genre’s boundaries like never before…Why is this rhythmic genius not a household name? 9/10” – Rush On Rock

“Nicolay is building something that feels uniquely his own. The songs have storytelling and poeticism. They have humor and they have heartbreak. They’re beaming with personality. 7.5/10” – Scene Point Blank

“A ramshackle treat.” – Stereoboard

“Resonate[s] in the blood…turn the volume up and let the thunder crack.” – Fatea

“Truly inspired and well-written songs…with intelligent and expressive lyrics conveyed by Franz’s distinctive voice. 4/5” – Punk Globe

“Train-robbery punk…[Nicolay’s] lyrics [have] become more like reading very intimate classic literature. 8.8/10” – You & Me & Us

“Earnest but heartfelt and laden with hooks, this is [a] fun excursion.” – The Music

“Plenty of moments to savour…rabble-rousing folk-punk edge.” – Rocksound

“[I was] gripped by this from the first listen…uplifting slices of rock ‘n’ soul, bursting with hooks and melodies, delivered with passion and pride. 8/10”  – Sunderland Echo/Hartlepool Mail

“An overriding success, and a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end. 8/10” – Dead Press

“Diese Musik brilliert durch ihre sehr gelungene Kombination harter Gitarrensounds, aufgewühlt leidenschaftlichen Gesangs, alles verpackt in viel kraftvoller Melodik und Harmonie. Sehr gelungen! 17/20” – Musikansich


5 stars: “Challenging, clever and more than a little unsettling… this is an album that cannot come recommended highly enough.” – The Arts Desk

8/10 “Heart-warming, impassioned, and damn near essential.” – Rocksound

“Franz Nicolay is a grown-ass musician. He’s a monster lyricist and a virtuoso showman. Like Peckinpah or Degas or Cather, Nicolay’s art is near relentless–the listener is advised to be patient and pay attention. Like Jonathan Richman or David Berman, his perspective covers 360 degrees: he doesn’t miss a nuance or mix a metaphor. But he’s also a genius with melody, fusing together punk polkas and klezmer discos and Appalachian show tunes into something catchy and charged…It’s perfect. It’s close to getting The Times They Are A-Changing during the Civil Rights Movement, Orozco murals during the Mexican Revolution. Consider this a valuable document as well as one of the best albums of the year…Essential listening.”

“It’s a doozy. Frantic, punky, folky, and larger than life, as is the man himself, the album is the dramatic culmination of the countless styles of music this gypsy-hearted troubadour does best…[C]lever, razor-sharp lyricism by the mouthful…[A] vibrantly rich record, it resonates long past when the music has stopped.” – My Old Kentucky Blog

“[The] punk-tinged raconteur…mixes Americana and hip-hop flourishes with disarmingly honest lyrics and a sense of musical adventurousness.” – The New Yorker

4/5 “Sad, wild folksongs from the unconventional multitalent.” – Rolling Stone (DE)

“Nicolay’s people come across as rogue sailors and those lost more in a sea of anger rather than a sea of apathy…songs that float between the odes of men ready to make amends and men wanting to break things.” – Daytrotter

“I haven’t been able to put my fingers on documentation, but I’m pretty sure Franz Nicolay is the flamboyant, younger brother of the Mountain Goats’ CEO John Darnielle. Swooning, epic, widescreen..[O]verflows with passionate energy.” – Alt Press

“Nicolay gets earnest atop his effective poetic soapbox.” – Spin

“A great storyteller and wordsmith.” – Punknews

“A dark pastiche of textural, eclectically influenced songcraft.” – AllMusic

“Loaded with passionate, Celtic-flavored, wall-punching punk anthems.” – Minneapolis Star-Tribune

8/10 “Epic…Each lyric sounds like it could very easily be an old proverb or taken straight out of an old sea shanty…An incredible release.” – Hit The Floor Magazine

7/10 “‘Stories For Society’s Sinners’ might be a fitting title for Franz Nicolay’s collected works so far…sharp, witty lyrics…grounded in realism as convincing as early Springsteen…His complete honesty is refreshing.” – AU Magazine

“Nicolay’s quick tongue delivers a treasure chest of tea-stained fables and faded moments…bouncing between styles and syllables with a whiplash speed.” – Impose

4/5 “Takes his previous singer-songwriter act and blows it to pieces…a gripping and unique album of alternative folk and protest songs…Franz’s bravery has paid off.” – Big Cheese

“Vocally, lyrically, instrumentally, technically; ‘Do The Struggle’ [is] a fantastic all-round album.” – 7 Bit Arcade

“The album’s strength lies in its crazy vitality…Recommended.” – The Whiteboard Project

“One of the finest poets in the industry…The man is a genius.” – The Colour Of Vinyl

“Never dull, not for one second…will make you want to swoon and weep.” – Forces Of Geek

“Dash[es] songs with the urgency of a man overflowing with deeply felt emotions and important things to say. It’s compelling as hell.” – Listen, Dammit

“A commanding album, it will get you chanting along.” – Gigape

9/10 “Incredibly innovative and independent…’Do The Struggle’ is a road trip to take home, a completely unparalleled, outstanding album, a piece of art, but also a companion for every day.” In Your Face (DE)

7.6/10 “Highly recommended.” – Surviving The Golden Age

“Nicolay, as a song writer, has never sounded more earnest and beautiful.” – Sonic Uprising

“Eccentric, exquisite poetry” – Last Year’s Girl


4/5 “Sprawling but fleet-footed…its execution is beguiling.” – Q Magazine
Q #32 of 50 Essential Tracks to Download: “The Last Words of Gene Autry: Every bit as fascinating as its title.”

5/5 Album of the Month: “‘Luck and Courage’ is a masterclass in instrumentation, arrangements and poetic musings…[It] is a work of grand proportions that deserves to be heard. This is Nicolay’s Sgt. Pepper.”

“As I’ve been sitting back trying to make sense of the year in music that was 2010, I was surprised to note how often I’ve reached for Franz Nicolay’s serenely stellar ‘Luck & Courage’ in the last couple months. A little album that could in a year of overblown and over-hyped trainwrecks, this record is pretty near impossible not to love. Each song a lovingly crafted short story, the characters and vignettes seem to curl up in your lap, leaving you feeling a better person for having known them as they fade to silence.” – My Old Kentucky Blog

“Nicolay has truly found his voice…his knack for inhabiting characters and spinning tiny, fascinating stories shin[es] through the creative arrangements and clear productions.” – Exclaim

“‘Luck & Courage’ builds on his splendid debut solo effort, 2009’s ‘Major General’. Here he adopts a tender, expansive, folkish style that dips into cabaret, bluegrass, and good ol’ indie rock as he loosely documents the far-flung romance of fictional paramours Felix and Adelita. Like Nicolay himself, the songs don’t fasten themselves to genre conventions.” – Boston Phoenix

“Superbly crafted.” – Delusions of Adequacy

“His songs are peculiar and unsettling, elegant and sparse. Think Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle fronting a gypsy band.” – Crawdaddy

#9 record of 2011: “If there’s one thing that this [album] has taught me it’s that behind even the greatest of lyricists could always be standing another genius.” – Last Year’s Girl

“‘Luck and Courage’ is a record like no other; it’s folky without suffering from simplicity, punk-rock without the aggression or anger, catchy without coming off as cliche, experimental without pretension. It’s cross-cultural and mixed-media, and convention-bending, and more than mere music.” – Switchboard Sessions

“‘Luck and Courage’ [is] a masterful contribution to modern music, [and] decidedly Nicolay’s best solo work…one of those rare albums that is consistently great from start to finish…one of today’s master singer/songwriters and musicians.” – Philadelphia Examiner

“Mesmerizing…both nuanced and explosive…Nicolay’s songs vary like you’d expect from a guy who also writes short stories. They’re sometimes efficient, other times stuffed like a suitcase, but each detail seems placed as if by tweezers.” – Houston Chronicle

“Powerful and emotive, better felt than sung along to…’Luck and Courage’ displays Nicolay awaking as a bright, singular artist.” – Columbia (SC) Free Times

“‘Luck and Courage’ is definitely an album that ought to be talked about.” – Short and Sweet NYC

“Rich with old world influences while retaining a pop immediacy.” – Chromewaves

“An intriguing, lyrically adept journey through the far-flung influences that make up modern indie rock…[Nicolay has] an inimitable ability to wrap stunning storytelling in bright, catchy chopsÉone day, we might look back and say, “Damn, Franz Nicolay was a hell of an artist!” So let’s not neglect him while he’s still here.” 7/10 – Eastern Surf

“His imagination and virtuosity make for an album without a dull moment…With his cinematic instrumentation, a love of show tunes, a sense of the absurd and a confident palette of American songwriting styles, Franz Nicolay might go from being known as a multi-instrumentalist for hire to taking up the baton of Tom Waits. ‘Luck and Courage’ is a delight.” – Pennyblack Music

“Nicolay’s tunes have an unassuming poetry to them and…they’re quirky in a good way…There’s a certain confident oddness to ‘Luck and Courage’…it ends up being an imaginative, if a little quiet, journey into the mind of a man whose music seems to be every bit as earnestly eclectic as his facial hair.” – Bollocks

“I’ve had a really hard time trying to write this review and describe this album, because I really haven’t listened to anything else like it, so I don’t really have anything to relate it to.” 7/10 – Pure Grain Audio

“On his own, [Nicolay] proves a commanding, theatrical storyteller and soundscapist.” – Philadelphia Daily News

“Nicolay shines on ‘Luck and Courage’…The man can do it all and with a bit of luck and courage he proves we can do it all as well. An inspiring listen to anyone walking in the great unknown.” – Officially A Yuppie

“8.5/10 Creativity is definitely something Franz Nicolay bleeds…if there’s one thing you shouldn’t doubt about Nicolay, it’s his wit and his energy.” – Buzzlegoose

“You owe it to yourself to spend plenty of quality time with Franz Nicolay’s sophomore release…Who knew he was one great devil of a songwriter?” – My Old Kentucky Blog

“‘Luck And Courage’…has a deeply rooted American sound, yet flirts with gypsy tradition; it is wholly original, yet you can sense where the influences are.” – Alter The Press

“Like most of Nicolay’s work, this new album is incredibly complex and diverse…a bang and clatter of Waitsian calibre.” – Snob’s Music

Major General and Luck & Courage [are] two brazenly artsy and delightfully variable solo song suites…he’s got the manic vocal chops to carry his bohemian punk-rock poetry all the way through his own original rock & roll dreams.” – Riverfront Times (St. Louis)

“There’s often an urgent electricity to Franz Nicolay’s music, as if he’s scribbling down observations just before, just after or sometimes even right in the midst of portentous events…Engaging as the music is, his vivid, empathetic storytelling is an even bigger draw. Taken together, they make these songs an inviting place in which to get lost.” – Listen Dammit

“Refined songwriting that’s rich in instrumentation…by far his best work.” – Bearded Magazine

“Franz Nicolay embodies a seamless blend of old school vaudeville and modern New York circus-punk revival…almost John Darnielle-esque rawness…if I stumble into a shabby cabaret somewhere along the proverbial highway, these stripped down serenades are exactly what I’d love to hear.” – Baeble Music

“The strength of the album comes from Nicolay’s uncanny ability to tell a story…Put on your headphones and let Franz Nicolay transport you to his world of Luck and Courage.” – Zink Magazine

“Nicolay sounds like a muscle-bound Andrew Bird…flexing literary allusions and mandolin solos.” – Best of New Orleans


Sound Salvation Army: “They say storytelling is a lost art in our digital age…But there is hope out there for those that value the power of the written word, the art of a well-constructed story. His name is Franz Nicolay…Obviously Nicolay [is] an incredibly evocative songwriter; in my heart I believe he’s a born storyteller. There’s ample evidence contained in this package that regardless of how his words make it out into the ether they’ll do so in a significant way. At a time when words are losing their value and importance it is goddamn wonderful to experience the work of someone who holds them sacrosanct and knows how to dress them up and show them off.”

Ground Control: “St. Sebastian offers a fantastic portrait of a player, because there is no sense that the music is the work of a commercially-minded performer. It’s raw and candid and [covers] the emotional spectrum…That sort of belief against all odds is the most beautiful thing on St. Sebastian of the Short Stage and it’s sort of incredible that such growth and dramatic evolution was possible in just four songs…Very few songwriters are capable of grabbing and holding the attention of listeners like that but, in St. Sebastian of the Short Stage, Franz Nicolay proves that he does, clearly. That’s a pretty incredible power; here’s hoping he wields it well on future releases.”

Room Thirteen: “Mad but brilliant…Perfectly executed and brilliantly imagined, charismatic, bold…There’s a warm, honest and delightful edge to all of Franz’s material that makes it easy to love.”

Altsounds: “Fun but also clever, upbeat and terrifically catchy…beautifully poignant…These four songs, ranging from despair to hilarity in less than 18 minutes, cover more emotional ground than many whole albums.”

Pastepunk: “‘The Ballad of Hollis Wadsworth Mason Jr.’ deserves an audience larger than the ones that know off the bat it’s a song based on a character from the Watchmen comic book. It’s a sad, rollicking number that is an excuse for Franz to do what he does best: Give voice to doomed good men.”

Go211: “Haunting and a good reminder that despondency is a universal experience and part of what it means to be human…Nicolay’s music is a quick look into a very unique human being.”

Sound As Language: “Can induce chills.”


Rolling Stone: “The Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay is best known for his classic boogie piano lines, jubilant backing vocals and sharply curving mustache, but his new solo album Major General looks to catapult him to star status.”

Pitchfork: 7.3/10 “Eclectic and ambitious but unshowy, Major General is about as satisfying as any solo effort from a member of an established band still killing it themselves as I can think of…Major General hits some massive highs and nary a single crushing low. Nicolay’s skill at playing punk sage on one song and slightly troubled troubadour on the next is really something special.”

Alt Press: 4 out of 5 “Punk rock, the musical: A collection of songs that paint vivid pictures…Nicolay’s persona as a storyteller is something between Peter Hammill with a Mohawk and ’70s-era Tom Waits. Like those master songsmiths, Nicolay serves it up hot, no matter what musical milieu is on the menu.”

Philadelphia City Paper: “Franz Nicolay isn’t just another dude from Brooklyn who plays accordion, wears jeff caps and grooms some unique facial hair: He’s the best….2009’s first great CD, Major General.”

UNCUT: 4-stars, Debut Album of the Month: “Yes, Nicolay is a man of distinctive appearance – half-cocked beret, Dali moustache, occasional goatee – and his first solo album exudes a suitably exuberant self-confidence. Few side projects have as much character as the witty and full-hearted Major General.”

Q: “Recasting the windswept folk artist as someone with piratical swagger, he comes over like Nick Cave leading an American Pogues, and every see-saw rhythm is shot through with a potent, whisky-drenched drama. In other words, the man’s a ham, but a terrific one.”

Punknews: 4 stars “”If you’ve ever seen Franz Nicolay perform with any of the handful of bands he’s a part of, chances are you’ve fallen in love with his delightful mustachioed smile, voluptuous sideburns, skilled musicianship, or the way his free hand flails in the hair when singing backup vocals. Well, now there’s a new reason to love Franz Nicolay: his songwriting…rooted in a loose foundation of equal parts folk, rock, punk and jazz, yet with the lyrical charm of a hapless proletariat poet, picking up the minutiae of living on Earth in between urban storytelling and dramatic musical interpretations. Throughout the record, Nicolay never ceases to delight with his wonderful multi-instrumental compositions, veteran musicianship and engaging insight.”

LA Weekly: “The chameleonic, boldly mustachioed Nicolay…has his own new solo thingie out called Major General, a charisma-dripping identity crisis in which the multi-instrumentalist (and very suave individual) makes the best of his time with a cinematically scaled opera of open-heartedly big ballads, wayward Gypsy troubadour tales and hilariously scabrous sermons about the importance of living large in these crampingly caution-strewn times.”

Daytrotter (includes exclusive downloads: “Nicolay treats us to songs that float between the odes of men ready to make amends and men wanting to break things, men who are just shaking from being too livid or too slighted. These are men who haven’t gotten over caring all the same. They’re not too old to have their feathers ruffled or their asses embarrassingly chapped by someone who doesn’t deserve the right to step all over the trodden frames and loose-leaf limbs…It’s good to just be prepared for the next night and the next fire that will consume and burn up everything in its path – Franz, these drinking songs, the dancing ones and the Celtic dirges, the women, the frays, all of it.”

The Onion AV Club: “Mustachioed Hold Steady keyboard player Franz Nicolay had a thriving music career both as a solo artist and a sideman before he signed on to serve Craig Finn and Tad Kubler’s vision of party-ready pulp-rock. On his solo album Major General, Nicolay showcases that versatility, moving from rousing piano ballads to tinkly cabaret to meat-and-potatoes rock ‘n’ roll.”

Spectrum Culture: “What might be most surprising about Major General is that Nicolay does not sound remotely exhausted with music: the album’s 13 tracks explore a whole range of instruments and genres. Possibly sensing that Major General would be evaluated against his already massive body of work, Nicolay manages two fronts: producing something new while remaining accessible to his eclectic fan base…Franz Nicolay performs these songs with both abounding energy and the vulnerability of a drunken crooner. Every track on Major General offers the listener the possibility of raucous excitement or unguarded elegance.”

Chicago Reader: “Franz Nicolay is best known as the grandly mustachioed dude whose piano, organ, and “woah-oh” backing vocals help push the Hold Steady’s songs firmly into the realm of the epic, but he also maintains a couple of steady side gigs–including a role in the theatrical art-punk collective World/Inferno Friendship Society–and has sat in with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Leftover Crack. Recently he’s added to his impressive CV a solo record, Major General (Fistolo), which applies the Hold Steady’s wide-screen scope to a skewed take on cabaret, klezmer, and Gypsy music–an aesthetic evident in his choice of collaborators, who include members of the Dresden Dolls and Balkan Beat Box. Musicians with stellar reps as backing players are often only good in supporting roles, but Nicolay’s got the songwriting chops and vocal presence to be a front man–and he proves it on tunes like “World/Inferno vs. the End of the Evening,” a Hold Steady-ish ballad that looks at life on the road in a punk band through the fuzzy lens of nostalgia.”

Aversion: “Spinning between the double-whiskey excesses of The Hold Steady and the cabernet sauvignon sophistication of the Society, Nicolay blends the impossibly different, though spiritually similar, bands into a concise and idiosyncratic package. All bluster and style, Major General sounds as if it’s the natural byproduct of a classical upbringing that slummed it in the underground all its life. More importantly, Nicolay’s one-of-a-kind style never sounds forced or contrived…Major General feels less of a high art/low culture hybrid than simply a masterful condensation of both ends of the spectrum into a new alloy.”

Aversion (feature): “It’s less a traditional rock show as much as it is a post-modern brand of vaudeville, where the ancient style’s tilted on its ear, twisted by irony, punk influences and a self-awareness to which the old performers never had access…It’d be an unpredictable, possibly uneven, set if it wasn’t anchored by Nicolay’s charisma. Injecting his songs with an over-the-top energy, he solidifies his disparate elements with the natural abilities of a born performer, as he straddles the line between The Hold Steady’s barroom classicism and the Society’s cabaret excesses. It’s the sort of thing born to be pushed onto the stage and enjoyed by a crowd well lubed by alcohol and rock volumes. Think of it as populism at its finest.”

Philadelphia Inquirer: “Major General, his first solo album, is full of dramatic talk-sung anthems and melodramatic power ballads – propelled by guitars more often than keyboards – full of failed dreams and N.Y.C. street scenes…He has his own compelling stories to tell.”

Philadelphia Weekly: “an excellent slab o’ tunes that merges Hold Steady-ish anthemic bar rock and sharp lyrics with Old World/gypsy melodies and cabaret-style melodrama”

Franz on NPR’s “World Cafe” with David Dye

Hex Ed Journal: “I am sure there is an old adage that goes something like, behind every great songwriter is, well, a few more great songwriters…[Nicolay’s] personal offering of tunes deserve to be added to the great American songbook immediately.”

Sound Salvation Army: “(A) singular piece of work that is a real achievement for a first-time solo artist.”

Time Out NY: “Though Nicolay’s day job is playing keyboards in the Hold Steady, he’s as word-drunk as that band’s frontman, Craig Finn….And he’s actually a better balladeer than Finn: The CD’s most memorable cuts – ‘Note on a Subway Wall,’ ‘X-Games’ and ‘Do We Live in Dreams?’ – could be outtakes from the Dracula musical Jason Segel’s character writes in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

Delusions of Adequacy: “Nicolay writes earnest, genuine lyrics that carry a certain soul to them…[he] doesn’t shy away from the melody and he allows his voice to command what happens in the song – emotion, regret, honesty – in a poignant manner. With subject matter that revolves around everyday life and the people that live it, Nicolay focuses on the themes that crowd these people’s struggles and joys.”

Venus E-Zine: “Musically speaking, the record lays hold to the chaotic rock that is uniquely Nicolay’s style: part cabaret, part ballad, part carnival. Mr. Franz Nicolay is on a roll…You canÕt help but be on his side.”

Minneapolis City Pages: “Chances are, you know of Franz Nicolay, the dapper Brooklyn gypsy punk frequently found pop-eyed and hitting high notes behind the Hold Steady’s keyboard, but you probably thought all he did in his downtime was wax that much-discussed mustache. Turns out the work of a full-time Renaissance man is never finished…Somewhere in there, Nicolay managed to record a solo album; titled Major General, it successfully combines his fetishes for polished fist-pumping rock and revivalist theatrics.”

Charleston City Paper: “[Nicolay is] a multi-faceted gem.”

NY Press: “One might expect a perfect conglomeration of all the styles of the bands he’s worked with: a gypsy-vaudeville-classic-rock-punk fused album. That wouldn’t be too far off.”

Philadelphia Weekly: “Major General…merges Hold Steady-ish anthemic bar rock with Old World melodies and cabaret-style melodrama. Nicolay and his crack band – which features Dresden Doll Brian Viglione on drums as well as members of Demander and Nanuchka – dig into that new material with gusto.”

Snob’s Music: “A refreshing sound in indie rock…An album of accessible pop nuggets that are guaranteed not to wear out their welcome. 8/10”

Twangville: “World/Inferno Vs. The End Of The Evening: Put this in the color-me-impressed file. Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay unleashes this tremendous ballad from his forthcoming solo debut. The song is filled with dramatic tension and Nicolay’s passionate vocals.”

Buffalo Artvoice: “His songs range from fierce maelstroms reminscient of his current band to sparse odes to love and melancholy that you could envision Cole Porter writing. Rife with cultural references both old and new, Nicolay invokes a voice and feeling all his own, independent of his past or current endeavors.”

Slug Magazine: “Major General is another impressive addition to his resume, as the mustachioed one emerges on his own as a talented lyricist and vocalist…simultaneously familiar and unique.”

Vue Weekly (Edmonton): “Nicolay faces the songs down like a Broadway singer thrown into a prizefight…Nicolay sounds like a man who is using every ounce of his strength to keep himself restrained…imagine what he’d sound like if he let himself run completely wild in the songs – that would be reaching towards spontaneous human combustion. Even on the otherwise quiet piano ballad “Note on a Subway Wall,” Nicolay is on the verge of explosion. All of that adds up to a compelling energy throughout Major General.”

Time Out Chicago: “Wax-mustachioed mysterioso Franz Nicolay exudes a distinctly vaudevillian vibe, but his old-timey attire belies a broad musical competency. The man’s a chameleon, equally comfortable prowling the stage with the goth-punk troupe World/Inferno Friendship Society, playing accordion with the Gypsy-folk combo Guignol or hammering away at the keys in the Hold Steady, stage right of Craig Finn…Nicolay’s at his best on cocktail-jazz gems such as the klezmer-inflected ‘Do We Not Live in Dreams?’ or the gentle swing of the closing track, ‘I’m Done Singing.’ He’s not too dim to ditch his gig with Brooklyn’s finest bar band. Still, we prefer him in the lounge, hamming it up as the pervy piano man.”

The Big Takeover: “Energetic, anthemic, and world-tinged punk songs. Think Ted Leo fronting DexyÕs Midnight Runners; and while that might not be for everyone, itÕs exactly as much fun as you let it be.”

Time Out London: “Witty and warmhearted.”

Pastepunk: “This release is just fun… Nicolay has made his mark in both World/Inferno Friendship Society and the Hold Steady, and on his first solo outing he revels in his own insecurities in riotous fashion, including the soon-to-be-classic “Jeff Penalty.” If you like Gogol Bordello, you’ll love the relatively stripped down full-length from Franz Nicolay.”

Chris Riemenschneider, “Major General is full of boisterous, sneering, anarcho-punk that’s more in line with Gogol Bordello or Against Me! than the Hold Steady, but fans of the latter will still appreciate Nicolay’s character-filled, novella-like songs and sheer rockability.”

Nottingham Evening Post: “[Nicolay] probes life’s dark nooks and crannies with the wayward vibrancy and vigorous endeavour of Phil Lynott and the vaudeville charm of a 70s Tom Waits.” “Major General is an odd (in a delightful way) collection of tracks that are utterly surprising as the man who generally lurks in the shadows (with a bottle of wine) in The Hold Steady steps out, into the light.” “If you enjoy the power pop structure that Nicolay’s full-time band throws down, youÕre sure to love this, although this new LP also features a more diverse sound. With cabaret-inspired tracks like “Hey Dad” and “I’m Done Singing,”Major General will hopefully deliver a breath of fresh air to the indie community.”

Illinois Entertainer: “Craig Finn may be The Hold Steady’s undisputed attention-grabber, but HS keyboardist Franz Nicolay’s solo record makes a solid case for who the band’s most diverse songwriting talent is.”

Blurt: 8/10 “‘Jeff Penalty”…offers an astute analysis of the nuances of punk purism and the performer-audience relationship…These and the other rock tunes on the album, particularly ‘This World is an Open Door,’ are positively exhilarating, made more so by Nicolay’s commanding tenor; who’da thunk that all these years, his voice has been his secret weapon? The Brechtian ‘Dead Sailors’ and the Django Reinhardt-esque ‘Do We Not Live in Dreams?’ offer bittersweet counterpoint to the louder fare, but Nicolay can deliver a rock anthem with the best of ’em.”

Tiny Mix Tapes: “The man is dynamically and emotionally aware like few vocalists are anymore, and his abilities behind any instrument with keys is peerless.”

PopMatters: “‘Jeff Penalty’…may end up as one of the best songs of the year.”

Chicago Decider: “There are plenty of bands with stories to tell, and some of them even make listeners want to pay attention to what they’re singing about. The Hold Steady is one; leader Craig Finn’s smart-yet-accessible lyrics put most of his contemporaries to shame. But it’s time to pay attention to Hold Steady keyboardist Franz Nicolay.”

Picasso Blue: “When the record is in full swing, it’s every bit as catchy as Stay Positive, Bat out of Hell, or Darkness on the Edge of Town. It’s schmaltzy and alive.”

Sequenza21: “Franz Nicolay makes a compelling case for his work as a solo act on Major General…Nicolay is as talented as he is versatile.”

Short and Sweet NYC: “Nicolay plays a poetic actor to a rambunctious soundtrack of reckless yet well-crafted slashes of guitar, piano and wild drums. His vocals are so full that this record could be played at the edge of skyscrapers and still hold up because they fill up so much space…It is hard not to be charmed by Nicolay’s passionate lyrics and his emotional delivery.”


“[A] new breed of pop artist who composes on the side…Franz Nicolay, the keyboardist of the Hold Steady, also writes for the rock-inflected Anti-Social Music collective.” – Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“Song-and-dance man”—Rolling Stone

“Another night, another Franz Nicolay show, another me wanting to give up because he’s too good…”
“Watching Franz Nicolay every night is an education in being an entertainer.”
“I’m slightly in awe of Franz…He’s been a big influence on me in recent years.” – Frank Turner

“Magnificent and inspiring.” – The Revival Tour blog

“Natural-born star.” – Pitchfork

#1, “Punk’s 10 Best Accordion Players” – Dying Scene

Top 5 Acts, Liverpool Sound City Festival “Franz Nicolay is probably the only artist on the planet that I’d feel comfortable saying his music is unlike anything else on the market…As the weekend draws to a close, Franz Nicolay’s accordion still rings in my ears as one of the best acts from this year’s festival.” – Glasgow Music

“One of those concerts you tell people about 20 years later.” – Beijing Cream

“The not-so-secret weapon of the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world.” – Pitchfork

Fest 13 Must-See Artists: “One of the weekend’s big must-sees. If you’re lucky enough to be there, then don’t miss this for the world. If you won’t be at Fest this year, then the very next chance to see Nicolay, you take. There’s no better advice I could possibly give going into this festival. None at all.” – Already Heard

“The sorrowful storytelling of Franz Nicolay may be unmatched. Each song seems to be the gripping tale of a tragic hero.” – Huffington Post

“Nicolay is a storyteller and an entertainer in the cabaret and vaudevillian tradition of his heroes. Each song contains characters and events one might suspect of being at least half true, and the tales are infused brilliantly with equal measures of cunning wordplay, comedy and pathos…[An] anarchic and freeform tribute to musicians, lovers and heroes.” – Music OMH (London)

“[T]ingle-down-the-spine sublime.” – Irish Independent

“[A] mix of New York squatter eccentric and gypsy brilliance that doesn’t leave him too far from being the perfect showman.” – Bring The Noise

“Well-crafted and wonderfully-told songs that were witty, melodramatic, poetic, romantic, and sometimes simply bizarre…you were left feeling that you’d been in the presence of a performer with a real streak of genius.” – Maverick Magazine

“Franz Nicolay’s voice cuts right through me- there’s something about the tone that gives me chills. In the best way possible…The story telling is immense.” – The Ruckus

“It’s not often you witness a support slot so rapturously received.” – Counterfeit Magazine

Creative Loafing Charlotte: “Last time Franz Nicolay came through town I just so happened to stumble upon him and was left speechless…Franz has invented his own style of music that straddles genres. People tend to stereotype the instruments he plays with certain styles of music (banjo-bluegrass/country, accordion-polka, etc.) but honestly, Franz reinvents their use and capability, rocking out in every sense of the word, spilling abnormally powerful emotion with every key he hits or string he plucks. After finishing up his set, the audience begged Franz for more and we received two encore songs, the last a cover of Leatherface’s ‘Not Superstitious’ that left me so moved that I almost sobbed…I cannot stress how amazing a show this was.

Addistock: “A consummate professional and DIY as fuck.”

State Press (Phoenix): “Franz Nicolay was without question the evoker of the grandest jaw-dropping moments of the evening.”

Leeds Guide: “The man oozed charisma and certainly knew how to tell a story…When he finished the audience seemed to exhale in unison as if they were sad to see him leave.”

Third Way Magazine: Editor’s pick, best of 2013. “Franz Nicolay’s UK tour (backed by Exeter’s The Cut Ups) was a showcase for overlooked brilliance. Epic, literate showmanship.”

Philadelphia Inquirer: “Though his worth as a composer and crooner is apparent from his debut solo CD, Major General, Nicolay’s live appearance Friday at the way-intimate chapel at the First Unitarian Church on Chestnut Street drove that point home like a punch in the schnozzola.There was something delightfully old-school about almost everything he approached. Not “old-school” like hip hop; really old school. Like covering Durante, plucking the banjo madly or breathing life into what he calls “the first most-hated instrument – the accordion” – as would an aged French boulevardier, on the elegantly complex ballad “Trains”. But make no mistake, Nicolay was no throwback. Each lyrical couplet formed its own rich story, and each delicate melody grew into a minor opera. There’s nothing old about that.”

CMJ – “Nicolay held court for a half-hour with his wordy troubadour tales of vagabonds, villains and vixens. The music switched rapidly from Billy Bragg-ish punk-folk to tango to banjo ballads to Old Europe stumpers as Franz played an acoustic guitar, a banjo, and, of course, an accordion. Nicolay’s voice and lyrics are less Craig Finn than a baritone John Darnielle. Some of the group’s best songs like “Dead Soldiers” and the hilarious “Jeff Penalty” sound like late-period Mountain Goats. He faced some technical difficulties (hey, you try plugging and unplugging that many instruments) but Nicolay controlled the situation deftly with his rambling comic banter (sample topics covered: opening for the Dead Kennedy’s reunion at Irving Plaza, the sadness of a banjo, Steve Martin). Nicolay freely admitted that he didn’t quite fit in with the rest of the bill, but he won over the crowd that did stick around by playing to his strengths: storytelling, subtle instrumentation and facial hair.”

Philadelphia City Paper: “Franz Nicolay is a musician’s musician. Not that his music is only appreciated by his peers, but he’s been employed by countless groups for his impeccable enthusiasm and multi-instrumental prowess. His solo shows, like his own albums, are affairs of global styles and Nicolay’s exuberant delivery of his dramatic lyrics. He might have established himself as a busy sideman, but Nicolay deserves to be in the spotlight he so often stole anyway.”

The Horn RVA: “The entire ride to Florida, one name kept constantly re-entering the conversation of must-see performances…the accordion-slinging troubadour Franz Nicolay was a fan-favorite in every conceivable way…Mr. Nicolay commanded the room with a refreshing dosage candor and humanity. Trading jibes, tall tales and songs alike, the show was one of the most intimate and compelling performances I’ve ever had the good fortune to attend.”

Sidewalk Hustle: “Nicolay brought a little bit of magic…showed just how much talent and flair he has. There’s a reason why he’s been a part of so many spectacular bands, while still crafting a rich and diverse solo catalogue.”